University of Adelaide researchers have discovered that stem cells taken from teeth can grow to form complex networks of neuron-like cells, suggesting a possible therapy for stroke. Although these cells haven’t developed into fully fledged neurons, researchers believe it’s just a matter of time and the right conditions for it to happen.
“Stem cells from teeth have great potential to grow into new brain or nerve cells, and this could potentially assist with treatments of brain disorders, such as stroke,” says Kylie Ellis, PhD, Commercial Development Manager with the University’s commercial arm, Adelaide Research & Innovation (ARI).
The stem cells expressed neuronal cytoplasmic proteins, neurotransmitter-specific markers, and functional voltage-gated L-type Ca2+ channels, but not spontaneous action potentials. “The reality is, treatment options available to the thousands of stroke patients every year are limited,” Ellis says. “The primary drug treatment available must be administered within hours of a stroke and many people don’t have access within that timeframe, because they often can’t seek help for some time after the attack.
“Ultimately, we want to be able to use a patient’s own stem cells for tailor-made brain therapy that doesn’t have the host rejection issues commonly associated with cell-based therapies. Another advantage is that dental pulp stem cell therapy may provide a treatment option available months or even years after the stroke has occurred,” she says.
“We can do this by providing an environment for the cells that is as close to a normal brain environment as possible, so that instead of becoming cells for teeth they become brain cells,” Ellis says.
“What we developed wasn’t identical to normal neurons, but the new cells shared very similar properties to neurons. They also formed complex networks and communicated through simple electrical activity, like you might see between cells in the developing brain.”
Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald